I lost a friend of mine last week.
The man the Quad Cities (and a good number of folks who live outside the region) knew as “Happy Joe” passed away last week. The world is a little less fun without Joe’s bright personality, humor and unbridled passion to help people of all ages and abilities as a result.
I knew Joe most of my life. And I feel fortunate to be friends with a number of his children and employees. For a while, I even helped advertise “Happy Joe’s” and tell its story that connected food and fun in a truly unique way.
But probably the most meaningful interaction (and enjoyable adventure) I had with Joe started in 2012, when I was asked to help the Whitty family launch the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation – an organization focused on building on Joe’s life-long passion for including and cherishing kids of all ages who have special needs. This foundation was (and continues to be), without question, a true and pure reflection of what drove Joe all of those years he was at the helm of Happy Joe’s and, later in life, working with his kids and long-time employees to continue building the business as an advisor and “top advocate” of the Happy Joe’s brand.
And while I’m not here to shill for the foundation, I am here to promote what its success represents – the good things that can come from just one individual dedicated time and effort in pursuit of a cause that’s bigger than them.
I’ve been blessed in my life to spend time working for a variety of organizations, like the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation, that I feel make a difference in the lives of people. Whether it’s the Pleasant Valley Schools Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America or my church – I’ve always been happy to contribute my time and talent to further the mission of those organizations.
In a similar vein, I’ve had the honor of serving as the mayor of Riverdale for the past two years. Sure, there’s a stipend that goes with the job, but I was never interested in serving because of the money, anyway. I was asked to run and did so without having any prior experience on the City Council or in an elected position. It took some time to get up to speed on the job and I’ve managed to shake a few things up along the way.
But in my view, Riverdale was in need of a wake-up call. Plans needed to be created. Processes need to be documented. The status quo needed a shake-up. And while we managed to accomplish all of those things, there’s still a lot of work to do.
There’s much more needed here than volunteering to come to a couple of meetings a month. And although it seems like progress is slow, it is coming.
Whether or not I’ll continue in that position depends on Tuesday’s vote. But know this, it’s been an honor and my pleasure to work with members of the City Council, to get to know my neighbors and to begin the process of taking Riverdale to the next level of responsive and responsible governance.
Win or lose, I’m committed to doing what I can to help Riverdale get there. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to continue pushing forward as Riverdale’s mayor through 2021. But the event I don’t get re-elected, I’ve promised to help my opponent get up to speed on the wide variety of issues and opportunities facing our City. Similarly, my opponent has promised to stay involved with the City if I win – which is essential if we hope to build a community culture of pitching in and making a difference in the quality of life we enjoy here in Riverdale.
It all starts again on Tuesday. Please be sure to vote. Take part in our democratic process and voice your interest in our community’s future.
Because no matter how the vote turns out, Riverdale wins.